Contrary to public perception, George A. Romero doesn’t only make zombie and horror films. Sure he is a Master of Horror. His Living Dead movies are the reason why The Walking Dead exists. But shockingly enough Romero has made films that don’t have a supernatural edge or horror scares. George A. Romero’s Knightriders might be his most emotionally satisfying movie because it lacks those qualities. That doesn’t mean he made a heartfelt family drama. His vision of knights on iron horses presents a fantastical place that exists within the real world.
The film opens up like Excalibur with King William (The Right Stuff‘s Ed Harris) and Queen Linet (Amy Ingersoll) wake up in the woods and get ready for the day. They seem like characters in a King Arthur story until the King revs up his Harley and they hit the road. Turns out they are part of a traveling Ren Fair. He’s the man in charge of the troupe going around the countryside serving up turkey legs and grilled corn to the hungry locals. The big draw is the jousting tourney that features fully armored knights charging at each other on motorcycles. They draw a large enough crowd that includes horror writer Stephen King and his wife Tabitha.
Billy really hates seeing the sport being exploited as the next big feature on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. But others do see money in the anachronistic event including a promoter played by Martin Ferrero (the conman Izzy on Miami Vice). Billy wants no part in this effort. He won’t even sign his picture in a magazine article about the hot new sport. The up and coming Morgan (Tom Savini) wants to see the operation make the big step. He also wants the crown from Billy’s head. Although before any of this can truly happen, Billy must deal with a local cop who insists on being bribed to let the knights fight it out. This leads to a brutal visit to jail. The King wants revenge, but does he have time with everything else going on in his troupe?
The nearly two and a half hour long movie allows us to get to know so many characters living the knight life. There’s a lot of issues cropping up including one of the king’s men being gay. There’s a girl that runs away with them. Even Morgan has plenty of turmoil within his circle of men. It truly is Arthurian in stature. There’s enough plot here for an AMC TV series.
Knightriders wasn’t a hit when it came out back in 1981 which is a shame. How could people have not wanted to take in a movie about guys on motorcycles busting each other with weapons? The film does have its dedicated cult and it deserves to grow in stature. Modern Ren Fair folks should enjoy this film about those brave metal wearing pioneers who brought the Medieval life to the countryside.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfers brings out the detail of the traveling troupe. The audio is 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. This brings out the crunch noises when the lance hits the body armor.
Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew has George Romero remember how he found various people on his set. They have a lot of time to recollect during the nearly 150 minutes of the movie.
Conscience of the King with Ed Harris (8:11) lets the actor reflect on one of his first major roles. He’s really sad that the film didn’t get a major release.
Code of Honor with George Romero (17:20) has him explain originally the script had them jousting with horses. AIP’s Sam Arkoff told him to go with motorcycles. There’s a great story why Morgan Freeman wasn’t Merlin.
Memories of Morgan with Tom Savini (10:15) lets the special effects wizard discuss his greatest thespian role. He also did stunts and the minor effects. “The best summer you could ever have” is how Savini described the experience. He got groupie action on location.
Behind the Scenes – The Stunts of Knightriders (8:16) includes a lot of video footage from the battles.
Trailer and TV Spots (3:08) promote the idea of a movie about knights and motorcycles.
George A. Romero’s Knightriders is an epic tale of a king, his subjects and his motorcycle. This might be Romero’s most emotionally satisfying movie simply because it’s about people that aren’t supernatural even though they wish for it. You might want to roast up a few turkey legs before pressing play.
Shout! Factory presents George A. Romero’s Knightriders. Directed by: George Romero. Screenplay by: George Romero. Starring: Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savini, Amy Ingersoll, Patricia & Scott H. Reiniger. Running Time: 146 minutes. Rating: R. Released: November 19, 2013.
Tags: Dawn of the Dead, Ed Harris, George Romero, Night of the Living Dead, Tom Savini